Feed store offers unique product mix: Retailer remains a Wanamaker institution, despite having numerous competitors

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Wanamaker Feed and Seed

Feed store offers unique product mix Retailer remains a Wanamaker institution, despite having numerous competitors

Pig noses, pig ears, cow hooves, wind chimes, jackknives, horse feed, bottled water, Indiana-dipped candles, carousel bird feeders-the inventory at Wanamaker Feed and Seed runs an interesting gamut. And owner Jim Trimble knows what to add, because he takes the time to know every customer and find out exactly what is wanted. (The first three items are for dogs to chew on.)

The business was a natural career destination for Trimble, 50, who has lived in Wanamaker since he was 5. He raised rabbits and bought their food from Ralph Prange, former owner of the feed store, and the two gradually became close friends. Trimble remembers riding his bike to the store to buy a 16-ounce bottle of Chocola to drink for 10 cents. He also remembers that Prange “would chew my butt out if I needed it. He thought of me as the son he didn’t have.”

When Prange retired, he sold the store to Trimble, who was 22 at the time.

“He held it for a year until I figured out a way to get the money for the down payment,” Trimble said. “I tried the bank-no luck. My dad offered to get a loan against the family home. I said no, but finally accepted when I couldn’t find anything else.”

Being 22 caused other problems: Trimble had no business experience, and some customers, who had known him as a kid, did not take him seriously. Prange stayed on for a year to help with the transition.

“He knew I knew the products,” Trimble said. “People wanted to talk to Ralph. He’d say, ‘I don’t know. Talk to Jim.’ He forced them to take me seriously.”

Trimble immediately diversified the inventory and lengthened the store’s hours. Business grew so quickly that a cash-flow problem resulted.

“All the cash got tied up in inventory,” he explained. “If I would have borrowed big money, this would have freed up some money to prevent this problem. We just hoped things would work out. We lived from hand to mouth. After 10 years, it got better,” he said.

Working hard is a way of life for Trimble, who often puts in 14-hour days, especially during the store’s most intense period: April 15 to June 15. His acceptance of the long hours reflects his philosophy of being selfemployed.

“You wouldn’t do this for the money,” he said. “If it’s all about the money, you’re not going to be happy.”

However, the money has grown over the years. The growth hasn’t come from expensive advertising, which Trimble said doesn’t work well, anyway. Instead, he puts money back into the community by sponsoring Little League teams, youth sports and 4-H. Trimble likes to keep his name before the public because the competition is everywhere.

“Everything we sell is sold elsewhere,” he said.

His commitment to personal service and community support seems to have won him loyalty from Wanamaker folks. George Wheatley, who has shopped there since 1959, said Trimble will “come right out and help you find what you want and discuss it with you to make sure you get the right thing. I would trust Jim with anything that I have.”

Longtime customer Arlette Povalac echoes this respect for Trimble.

“He’s devoted, conscientious and honest,” she said. “All the guys there are that way.

Location: 4410 Northeastern Ave.,

Wanamaker Phone: 862-4032 E-mail: wanamakerfeed@aol.comFounded: 1964 Founder: Ralph Prange Owner: Jim Trimble Service/product: animal feed, pet food, wild

bird products, hardware, garden center,

lawn service (fertilizer and weed spray) Employees: four full-time, six part-time Revenue (2004): $1.2 million One-year goal: increase annual revenue to

$1.4 million Industry outlook: Prospects are good on all

fronts of the feed and seed business, but

there is plenty of competition.

They’re not just out to make a buck. You never have that high-pressure feeling.”

Trimble’s current challenge is “getting new people to find us and know what we do,” he said. “We are not just a feed store for farmers. The challenge is to do that without breaking the bank to advertise.”

Trimble plans to continue selling and providing service to the quad-county area (Marion, Johnson, Shelby and Hancock) and finding homes for the 200 kittens people trust him with every summer.

Jim Trimble owns Wanamaker Feed and Seed, which also has a garden center and offers some lawn services.

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